The recent announcement concerning Dani Hodges’s retirement from boxing prompted me to take a look back at and re-publish our Feb 2019 Interview.
The Midlands town of Burntwood may be petite and relatively unknown, but over the years it’s produced some giant competitors in the world of sports.
I refer to icons such as the late Dalian Atkinson, talented and talismanic footballer who from 91-95 played 104 matches for Aston Villa notching up 38 goals.
Kim Betts became the gymnast and body builder who was better known as ‘Lightning’ in the ITV show Gladiators.
Sonia Lannaman was a prime athlete who became a Commonwealth Champion and Olympic Bronze Medallist.
And let’s not forget the footballer, Gary Cahill, who served as Chelsea Captain and was the only Chelsea player to play every minute of their 2014-2015 campaign.
Today, former Kick Boxing Champion now turned Professional Boxer, Burntwood’s Dani Hodges, is on a journey that could one day see her own name added to that proud list of sports elites.
That’s not to say that it shouldn’t already be added. As far as some sports enthusiasts are concerned, it probably already has been.
The respect for her achievements as a kick boxer is so much that the WKN World Title eliminator fought on June 2015, remains to this day a ppv only event.
It saw Hodges and the high flying Belfast Kick Boxer, Cathy McAleer clash in what was described by ProKick News as a ‘pulsating 4 round war.’
Hodges made the move from kickboxing to professional boxing during the summer of 2017 but the switch wasn’t met with instant success and she tasted defeat in her first fight.
However, let’s take a brief pause whilst we put this into context.
Hodges began her professional boxing career with a very tough fight on August 26 2017, in Spain.
It was a Super Flyweight contest scheduled for 6 rounds against Eva Naranjo, currently the WBC International Female Bantamweight Champion and a World Female Bantamweight Title challenger.
So, talk about Baptism of Fire…
Fast forward to February 2019 and ‘The Pocket Rocket’ has clearly shaken off any disappointment which had perhaps mildly threatened to derail her pro boxing aspirations.
The ‘we either win or learn’ mantra that so many good boxers live and breath by today could easily be applied to her current demeanour and, as we’ve seen, the recent results have been going her way.
Last Saturday night against the awkward Bulgarian boxer, Rozmari Silyanova, Hodges grabbed her third straight win and in the process notched her career stats up to a respectable looking 3-1-0.
The stark contrast between the two boxers was apparent from the get go.
After entering the ring in good mood Silyanova stood in her corner, feet planted and motionless as she awaited Hodges’ arrival.
There was more movement in the corner adjacent where the referee, Shaun Messer, showed off some pretty impressive footwork as he exercised a gentle warm up.
Clearly elevated by her buoyant, vociferous fan-base, Hodges’s arrival was much more dynamic.
Bouncing and hopping, stretching, dancing, shaking out the arms and legs, ‘The Pocket Rocket’ was in the zone.
When the bout began, the popular Burntwood fighter was able to stamp an early authority on the proceedings. She maintained her pressure cooker boxing style throughout the four round contest.
On the outside she was fizzing out spiteful jabs and damaging combinations and her footwork was sharp and crisp which helped her to avoid the looping, swinging lefts and rights that the Bulgarian launched in sporadic fashion.
Outgunned on the outside, Silyanova didn’t want to fight up close either, so wouldn’t allow Hodges to work on the inside.
Each time they entered the pocket Silyanova grabbed, smothered and held, sometimes in almost desperate looking fashion.
The win, when it came for Hodges, was a solid and well deserved one. Messer scored it 40-36.
It’s always a tremendous pleasure to talk to Midlands boxers so it was really cool to be able to catch up with Dani Hodges to talk about the fight, her career to date and her future plans.
First up, good win Saturday. Tough circs. Did the fight pan out as you expected it to? And how much did you know about Silyanova before Saturday night?
Thank you. The end result was what I planned, a win, but the fight itself was a bit different to how I’d thought about it in my head. But that’s okay. I’m fine with learning on my feet and adapting.
I literally knew nothing about her. I couldn’t find any videos or anything. I knew she’d fought some tough girls and she was a bit heavier. That’s it really.
She was hugging you a lot. That must have been a bit frustrating?
Yeah really frustrating. She was trying her best to spoil the fight so I did my best to try and rough her up on the inside.
Yeah. So now three wins straight. But I notice you went straight back to work in the gym. You’re on a mission…
Yeah, I was straight back in the gym on Monday and I’ve just got back from the gym tonight. I’m certainly happy with three straight wins but a win don’t mean there wasn’t flaws so I like to work on building while it’s fresh.
How different is this from your kick-boxing career? And how challenging has the transition been?
I’ve always preferred using my hands compared to kicking. I enjoyed my kickboxing career but boxing is where my heart lies.
The transition hasn’t been too challenging as I’ve always preferred using my hands. The foot work has been the difficult part, trying to settle down into my stance. But it’s improving all the time.
You certainly hit the floor running when you took on Naranjo in Spain on your pro debut. It didnt turn into the outcome you’d have been looking for but otherwise, what was is like fighting in Spain? And what did you learn from that night?
My first pro fight in Spain under a Spanish license was a silly mistake but at the time I saw a good opportunity and a wage.
I don’t regret going. I had a great time and have great memories. But when I came back I thought to myself, ‘I really want to make a go of this.’ So I took the right route and applied for my British Boxing License and signed with BCB Promotions which was the best decision I have ever made.
I believe everything happens for a reason so maybe Spain was just one of those things that had to happen to set me on this path I am now on.
So under BCB Promotions it’s now three straight wins. You must be pleased with your progress.
What has been key to your success and what types of things have you focused on in training?
I’ve always been dedicated to my training. I’ll train two to three times a day during camp and always at least once a day out of camp.
I train at Platinum Boxing Gym in Burntwood under Lee Goodwin and Steve Cadman. They are tough Trainers and don’t give away praise easily. So when they do you know it’s well deserved, and I’m extremely grateful to them. Everyone at Platinum is like family.
Every Sunday I go over to BCB’s gym in Wednesbury for sparring. The coaches there Paul, Ben, Matt, Errol, they all help so much. They spend time on you, correcting every small detail and it’s always great vibes when I’m there. You’re surrounded by people on the same mission and it pushes you.
Yes. And as a female boxer I imagine you encounter some difficulties. Such as finding suitable sparring partners?
Yeah it is hard to get suitable sparring. A lot of the time I spar with lads. At Platinum where I train all the lads are really good with me. I just get treated as one of the lads.
And how do people outside of the sport respond to you when you tell them what you do?
I mostly get really good support when I tell people what I do and most of the time they are shocked, not because I’m female but because I’m so tiny (laughs).
(laughs) Are there any female boxers that inspire you? And do you have any favourites?
Female boxing is growing. Obviously major names that everyone has heard of like Katie Taylor and Nicola Adams have really established women in the sport and they are owed so much respect for that.
On top of that it must be exciting watching guys like Troi Coleman and seeing how he’s developing as a pro boxer too. I think you knew him from your kick boxing days?
Yeah I’ve trained with Troi for years at Platinum. He is a really talented boxer and deffo one to watch. He will go far and now he is signed with BCB too.
So, how did you get into combat sports? Where did it really start for you?
My son started before me. He was doing Taekwondo at Burntwood and Cannock TKD Club and they were offering a week’s free training for parents so I gave it a go and loved it and kept it up and from there. I progressed to Kickboxing at Platinum and then boxing when we turned to boxing as a Club.
I read a report on-line that said you were a triple British Kickboxing Champion. Is that right?
Triple British kickboxing? That’s wrong. I won a lot of Taekwondo tournaments and won quite a few belts in Kickboxing.
And are you looking to emulate the same types of success in boxing at flyweight or superflyweight?
I’m looking for the same success in pro boxing at flyweight. I’m not in it to play or try, I’m in it to succeed.
And we’ll be following you all the way. And so will many others – you get great support on fight night. Your fans and followers really make their presence felt. That must be a real motivation.
Thank you. I am so grateful for the support I get. It would be impossible to do what I do without it…From sponsors to those that buy tickets from ourselves, I can’t even come up with the words to express the respect and love I have for them…Especially the fight night just gone. I watched the video back of my fight and I could hear everyone singing. I loved it. It really does push you.
And finally, what can we expect from The Pocket Rocket in 2019?
Pocket Rocket is out to grab what ever 2019 has to offer me with both hands.
First published in 2019 for Midlands Boxing Culture
I wish Dani every success in her future ventures.